News | August 4, 2017

EPA memo: Altamaha River impaired due to ongoing pulp plant pollution

A new memo from the Environmental Protection Agency finds that the Altamaha River is currently impaired for both color and odor from polluted discharge downstream of the Rayonier Advanced Materials pulp plant in Jesup, Georgia.

This week, SELC and partners sent a letter on behalf of Altamaha Riverkeeper citing the EPA memo and calling for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to withdraw the current pollution discharge permit and issue a new one that adequately protects water quality.

Representing Altamaha Riverkeeper, SELC, GreenLaw, and Stack & Associates are in the appeal process of challenging the pollution discharge permit granted to Rayonier in December 2015.

EPA’s memo addresses the condition of the river, reporting that numerous fishermen find the downstream fish inedible, and emphasizes that the long-standing problem of odor from the Rayonier AM discharge continues to such an extent that it causes federal employees to reek of the plant’s smell when they come back from site visits.

EPA’s conclusion echoes an Administrative Law Judge’s ruling in October 2016 that the permit issued by EPD violates Georgia water quality standards, and that EPD must impose more stringent regulations to restrict color and odor in the polluted discharge.

The administrative court’s decision followed a two week trial in June 2016 that included testimony from over a dozen witnesses about the extent to which the 50 to 60 million gallons of effluent discharged into the river daily affects citizens’ ability to use the river for fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking, and other activities. A Wayne County judge subsequently overturned that ruling, leading to the current appeal.

Click here to read Altamaha Riverkeeper's letter to Georgia EPD with the attached EPA memo.